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Ofsted praises innovative approach to keeping children safe from extra-familial harm

A focused visit to Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s children’s services said professionals and leaders were innovative and effective at protecting children vulnerable to risk and harm both in and outside the home.

26/07/22

Ofsted praises innovative approach to keeping children safe from extra-familial harm

Children in Kensington and Chelsea who are vulnerable to extra-familial risk receive excellent support from social workers and partner agencies, a new report from Ofsted has found.

The Ofsted report, published last week, found teams at the borough to be ‘excellent’, ‘innovative’ and ‘effective’ at protecting children vulnerable to risk and harm both in and outside the home.

The report found that ‘carefully crafted’ safety plans address issues that make children vulnerable, and that ‘passionate’ social workers have a highly developed approach to supporting change for children and their families.

“Swift, decisive action to share information enables the development of safety plans for children who have been exposed to significant risks. Strategy meetings convened rapidly ensure that agencies understand the risks that children face,” the report said.

“Plans focus on reducing risks and identifying actions to promote the safety of children, their families and the workers involved. When children are placed out of borough as part of their safety plan, receiving children’s services departments are notified swiftly to ensure they are aware of safeguarding risks.”

Leaders and practitioners were said to have developed an innovative approach for children vulnerable to extra-familial risk. An alternative pathway, using adolescent at risk meetings, was said to support effective and appropriate information-sharing to help professionals and families assess risk and formulate safety plans.

“Plans for vulnerable children are monitored regularly by the lead officer for exploitation, who provides advice and support to workers. Team-based exploitation champions help ensure that information is shared at the serious youth violence and child sexual exploitation panels and changes in children’s lives are reflected in the plans made,” the report said.

“Promoting safety is at the core of this work. A specialist senior gangs worker undertakes skilful and tenacious direct work with some of the most vulnerable children, agreeing to meet children and families in locations and at times that enable a trusting relationship to be developed. Specialist commissioned agencies work intensively with children who are criminally exploited,”

Inspectors also found that leaders work “tirelessly” with a broad range of partners and commissioned services to promote awareness and understanding of extrafamilial risks. As a result, professionals can swiftly identify vulnerable children and ensure that they and their families receive early and effective support to mitigate risks.

“Leaders have developed strong relationships with police services. The effective exchange of information enables child-centred planning and strengthens boroughwide mapping activity to identify risks and plan disruption activity. Specialist workers within the community safety directorate work closely to share information, identify risks and to support some of the most vulnerable children,” the report said.

Assessments, including specialist exploitation risk assessments, were found to be thorough at the council with professionals working in partnership with families to create focused and detailed plans that are reviewed regularly.

Inspectors praised the “innovative” work being done to improve the way in which the National Referral Mechanism is used to benefit children who have been trafficked and exploited, and said that appropriate use is made of Prevent arrangements when concerns about radicalisation are identified, albeit for small numbers of children.

There was also glowing commendations for the “sensitive and appropriate support” provided for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

“The wider needs and issues of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are well considered, and good attempts are made to address all their needs, including accommodation, education, physical and mental health, culture and friendship,” inspectors said.

“They receive sensitive and appropriate support despite the fact that many of their placements are out of area, making it more difficult for them to fully access and engage with the authority’s services and community support.”

Ofsted spoke to a number of children and parents during the visit. They told Ofsted how much they value the support they receive during the difficult periods of their lives, and how workers have helped to improve relationships and reduce conflicts both in and outside the home.

Welcoming the report, Sarah Newman, Executive Director of Family and Children’s Services, said the report demonstrates the impact services are having on the lives of these children and families.

“It’s so heartening to hear this and reflects the skill, compassion and care that our staff bring to this work, and I know staff will continue to build on their strengths to create the best services possible for residents. I am so proud of our staff and the fact Ofsted recognised their excellent work.”

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